Message from Director
Facilities and Grants
|message from the director: Ajume Wingo
Welcome to the Center for Values and Social Policy. As the Center’s new director, I would like to take this opportunity to bring the Center to the attention of some new members of our community, and to say a word or two about our goals for the next few years.
Starting this year, we are taking the Center to the world. We should do this because modern technology and mass aerial travel have transformed the planet into a global village. In today’s world, the jeans you are wearing might have cotton that was grown in Mali, spun in Turkey, and stitched in Bangladesh before making its way into a clothing store in the 29 th St. Mall.
Like the scattered islands of an archipelago, the example of a pair of jeans is just one high point above the massive bulk of international commerce. The production of these goods is made possible by legal persons we refer to as “multinational corporations.” When we combine Western consumers’ desire for low prices with the multinational corporations’ penchant for high profits at low cost, we are too often left with a toxic working environment for millions of men and women struggling to feed their families and send their kids to school. These indigent laborers—working day and night with no insurance, no vacation, and low pay—are the powerless and voiceless.
Despite the recent rise of movements calling for us to buy or eat “local” products, we expect the world will continue to shrink as multinationals continue to connect new producers to new markets. Philosophers interested in working with this fact rather than against it are destined to frame the discourse of ethical development. We have reason to be optimistic about the growing interest of multinationals in that discourse, either out of a growing progressive sentiment or a better conception of their long-term interests.
Unfortunately, while there is a rich body of philosophical literature examining the basic institutions of states as they affect the rights and obligations of their own citizens, there is comparatively little that deals with global justice, i.e., that analyze the effects of institutions that are independent of nation states but yet affect the lives of multitudes of the worst off all over our globe. To fill that gap, the Center for Values and Social Policy is positioning itself as a leader in this frontier of global justice. We aim to provide sustained theoretical and policy work on global environmental problems; emerging global values as they are influenced by global agents such as multinational corporations, multinational organizations and NGOs; nuclear proliferation; international terrorism and pirating; liberalization and democratization in the developing world; restorative and transitional justice; refugee crisis management and immigration. In addition, we will be part of a new African Initiative, which is composed of Africans living in the U.S. and friends of African who seek to persuade the American people, the Obama administration and the new Congress to rise up and take advantage of the commercial and security opportunities in the new Africa.
Although the Department’s recent cluster of hires demonstrates our commitment to becoming a leader in global justice studies, I do not want to give the impression that the Center is focused solely on these questions. Indeed, ultimately, all values are local. We shall therefore direct our energies to local and national environmental issues, electoral politics, education, incarceration, gender gaps, and diversity issues. The Center is also looking forward to creating a lecture series for, by, and of the senior citizens of the greater Boulder area. This program will encourage a cross-fertilization of ideas between students, faculty and local seniors in order to create an intellectually stimulating space for all involved.
Since the Center is not brand new, I would direct your attention to our recently updated webpage, which showcases our many excellent ongoing programs. The Center shall step up its funding hunt to ensure the continuation of some of these efforts, including our lively weekly colloquium series, the annual Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress, the Morris Colloquium, the Think! Lecture series, the Prisoners and other Vulnerable Populations conference, and the Ethics in Film series. Furthermore the Center will continue to support our undergraduate Ethics Bowl teams, the Summer Philosophy Institute of Colorado (SPICO) program, and Philosophy Outreach Program of Colorado (POPCO).
We have a bounty of resources with a good number of leading philosophers working in ethics and social-political philosophy. Metaphysics and epistemology provide us with the metaphysical background for understanding human values, and in this area we have a wellspring of talent to draw from as well. This is in addition to contributions from other departments such as Environmental Studies, Geology, Political Science, and Law. Deserving special attention is CU’s leading program in Women Studies, which positions us to deal with local, state, national, and global gender issues.
My hope is that the Center will become a true center of the philosophy department, an engine for social change, a house with many rooms available for those willing and ready to work with us. Towards that goal, the Center shall have a citizen board, a steering committee, and a graduate and undergraduate student advisory panel drawn from both the Department and the University more widely.
On behalf the Center for Values and Social Policy, I thank you for your interest and invite you to become part of its exciting future.